Lately, In Science

What’s in a name? Why the coronavirus needed its own

Sarah-Jane O'Connor Feb 12, 2020

As of today, the novel coronavirus spreading in China is called COVID-19. Why does it matter? Around the office, we’ve had several conversations over the past few weeks about how 2019-nCoV needed its own name. First, it was getting annoying calling it by the above designation, and ‘novel coronavirus’ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue either. And it was … Read More

Grammar for scientists

Sarah-Jane O'Connor Feb 05, 2020

I’m about to start teaching science communication to tertiary students, which is equally hilarious and terrifying to me. (Hi to my students who have Googled me and found this post.) I loved English at high school, but we spent most of our time reading The Outsiders, discussing the differences between metaphors and similes, and pondering the thematic meaning of King Lear. But … Read More

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Coronavirus ‘infodemic’

Sarah-Jane O'Connor Feb 03, 2020

Lately, my morning routine includes opening up our work email and checking the latest World Health Organization coronavirus situation report. It’s sobering to see the numbers increasing so rapidly – about 2,500 new confirmed cases every day and about 45 reported deaths. But I’m also reminded of the stark contrast between this outbreak and previous situations in terms of how … Read More

Yes, koalas are cute – but should we bring them to NZ? Errm, no

Sarah-Jane O'Connor Jan 14, 2020

It’s been hard to miss the extreme fires raging across Australia and the tragic plight of the animals – human and otherwise – affected by the fires’ insatiable spread. I know I’ve been captivated and concerned by the tales of how Australia’s famous wildlife has been coping. Koalas approaching cyclists to beg a drink of water, kangaroos seeking … Read More

In science communication, words matter

Sarah-Jane O'Connor Jun 21, 2019

Being a grammar nerd isn’t always the best way to win friends and influence people, but today I’m yet again reminded why it’s important to get our words right. Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Authority released its annual HSNO Monitoring report, which includes data on hazardous substances and new organisms managed under the HSNO Act. This year, they’ve expanded their … Read More

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Tracking CFC emissions: a scientific mystery story

Sarah-Jane O'Connor May 23, 2019

Thirty years ago, in May 1989, global leaders gathered in Helsinki to sign into force the Montreal Protocol. You might not be familiar with it by name, but you certainly know its effects: the Montreal Protocol phased out the use of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, and other ozone-depleting substances in an effort to reverse the damage to the ozone layer. It’s … Read More

Improving health news through press releases

Sarah-Jane O'Connor May 18, 2019

In 2014 a study was published that challenged an oft-cited criticism that journalists are to blame for hyped-up health stories. Sensational headlines, breathless reporting, caveats buried so far down the story that most readers never find them. We hear these complaints all the time about the media. But this study, published in The BMJ, turned the claims on their … Read More

Violence in the media and cycles of trauma

Sarah-Jane O'Connor Apr 26, 2019

As governments consider tightening the reins on social media companies and the platforms’ use in terrorism, new research highlights the impact of being exposed to such violence. Following last month’s mosque shootings in Christchurch, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced plans to co-host a meeting in Paris called the “Christchurch Call”. The aim will be to have world leaders … Read More

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